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3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  951 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews

"[A]n extraordinary book, a work of staggering virtuosity. With its publication, a giant world of literature has just grown twice as tall."--Newsday

From Ralph Ellison--author of the classic novel of African-American experience, Invisible Man--the long-awaited second novel. Here is the master of American vernacular--the rhythms of jazz and gospel and ordi
Published (first published May 29th 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,716)
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MJ Nicholls
My rule with unfinished or abandoned novels is to leave them festering lonesome on shelves as embarrassing reminders of a writer’s all-too-human faffiness—Gogol’s Dead Souls II serving as the ur-example of what happens when an author fails to follow up a masterpiece and loses his sanity and reputation in the process. Whether Ellison lost his sanity trying to complete his Untitled Second Novel is unclear—forty years trying to follow up one of the Great American Novels Invisible Man suggests a lac ...more
Nov 18, 2008 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

One reading while breastfeeding is not going to cut it with this book. Talk about layers.

I feel the need to read lots of scholarship about this book, but not right now.

Does it bother you when you read a book that describes someone as a "great" something but gives no evidence of their being "great"? Well, this book delivers in that department. It's about a preacher and a politician and boy is it packed with prime examples of preaching and politicking (especially the former).

I wonder what the
How does one follow up a masterpiece? Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is, in my humble say-so, one of the greatest works of fiction ever written. Genius. Perhaps Ellison should have stopped there, but he spent decades trying to put together his second novel. When he died in 1994, this still-not-published work was found to be more than 2,000 pages long without any clear conclusion or pathway. In an effort to get something out there, editor John Callahan had Juneteenth published, although this novel ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't listen to country music so forgive my inability to properly reference this song; a song I abhor. I have seen the music video though. The guitar-slinging singer hops out of his Chevy pickup wearing a baseball cap and mechanics shirt singing about all the characteristics of a "real" American. As I watched this video, as a man whose head remains too large for donning baseball caps and drives a small sedan, I felt entirely un-American. And enraged. His depiction undoubtedly represents some A ...more
Aug 10, 2010 Djrmel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
How do you judge a book that was unfinished at the time it was taken over by the editor? A book that was 40 years in the making, likely to have been published as three books if the author had finished it before he passed away? Do you judge it as a work in progress, a sketch book piece from the creaters of one of Western Literatures masterpieces? After all, Elisson never handed this book to his publisher and said "It is done". It seems unfair to judge it as a finished work bearing Ellison's name, ...more
Jan 04, 2008 kerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Adore this book. I found that, despite its strange construction as a book, Juneteenth stands on its own as a masterpiece of American lit... and knowing Ellison's history and the toil that went into its writing only adds to the book's classicness.

Juneteenth is one small excerpt of Ellison's 2000+ manuscript after the Invisible Man. Ellison spent years on the follow-up story, enduring a '66 fire that burned the initial manuscript, and tearing through writing and re-writing Juneteenth for the rest
Jun 19, 2008 Jesus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: freeing your mind & your body
I was surprised to find that slavery still existed in America even after the death of so many of our young countrymen in a divisive though ultimately decisive war. The title of this work derives from the day in the middle of June a town in the state of Texas finally complied with what had become federal law & formally ended the practice of slavery. The too-long-delayed celebration of newly-freed individuals becomes a backdrop for understanding contemporary politics.

The other reviewers sugges
Jennifer W
Too twisty and stream of consciousness for me. very few real plot points, hard to follow at times. I know this was an editor's work of unfinished notes and whatnot, and maybe I would have liked the whole more, but as it stands, I wasn't that impressed.
Jun 26, 2015 Jackie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
The audio version is narrated very well by Joe Morton but Ellison is a complex writer and I think some sections just have to be read and digested, like the Senate speech and the sermons. I'm going to get a hard copy so I can fully appreciate it.
Lora Shouse
It’s a shame Ralph Ellison never was able to finish his second novel. In this edition, editor John Callahan tells the story of how he was working on it for years and years, and just when he had it nearly finished, the manuscript, or at least a large part of it, was destroyed in a fire. He went back to working on it, but was never able to get it to that point again. Working with it after Ellison’s death, Callahan determined that the existing material could likely have become three novels, but non ...more
Rating/review based on enjoyment alone. I was in WAY over my head with this one.

A dizzying, frustrating, rhythmic, sprawling, uneven, lyrical, byzantine, and, at many points, glorious free-form(? stream-of-consciousness? mediation? riffing? experiment in surreal post-modernist socio-political commentary?) on the whole of America. I struggled through this one, with a feeling of it being over my head. [I've since read the editor's notes and a little background that I wish I would have read first
James Klagge
Jun 23, 2011 James Klagge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was excerpted from a massive novel project that remained unfinished at the author's death. So it is unclear whether the flaws derive from the project itself or from its unfinished state. A much larger edition of the project was recently published as "Three Days Before the Shooting". Perhaps the larger edition answers the many unanswered questions that hang mysteriously in "Juneteenth". I don't know. I read this in the middle of June because that is when Juneteenth falls. There is a mar ...more
Mar 25, 2009 Alain rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dedicated
Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison was a book with great voice and a good example of good writing. I've not read the Invisible Man so I cannot judge on his previous work. After reading this book though I can say that the book was not that hard to understand as far as reading but the story itself/the set up was very confusing at times. The book does say its an edited compilation of Ellision work and it does show at parts sometimes to much. At times to story sort of just skip and goes somewhere else. Thi ...more
Noelle M
Jan 11, 2012 Noelle M rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After I closed the book it took me time to digest the story. The story is about a racially prejudiced white U.S. senator who was abandoned at his illegitimate birth, and reared by a black minister named Alonzo Hickman whose pulpit style was religion as spectacle--in which he schooled the boy. OR the story may be about a black minister named Alonzo Hickman who reared an abandoned white waif who turned into a political con able to backstab anyone in his climb to the top. The tale alternates points ...more
Mar 12, 2013 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Juneteenth is Ralph Ellison's posthumous follow-up to Invisible Man. It's about a senator, Bliss, who is shot on the senate floor, and the African-American man, Hickman, who raised him. It's also about identity and how the way we identify ourselves affects our actions and how we treat others. Despite having been raised by African-Americans, Bliss grows up to become a racist, white senator. Once he decides to be white, this influences the future actions of his life, which leads to the assassinati ...more
Susan Emmet
Jul 13, 2013 Susan Emmet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Juneteenth..."the celebration of a gaudy illusion," regarding Emancipation. And Lord knows Ellison's forty-year effort to complete this novel needed adept assistance from a good editor, John F. Callahan, Ellison's literary executor. But it's no "gaudy illusion."
It's a wonderful, entrapping book, full of sermons and dreams and music and history and folktale and layers of dialog and plot and theme. Just an amazing work pared down from 2000 pages of text Ellison left, along with boxes of notes.
Seriously intended to fall in love with this book beyond personal facades of intellectual bouts, it fell down pretty damn hard.

1. I adore African American History- I rather enjoy the pungent negativity surrounding it, clearly masking glorious beauty, and resilience levels so high in terms of all aspects.

2. My ideas of emancipation and American History isn't so whole hearted.

3. For someone who doesn't give a slight kilowatt too tension or any level of connection and stimulation of the mind, this
Cheryl Klein
Jan 06, 2010 Cheryl Klein rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Note to self: Don't ever check out audio books from the library that were published more than two years ago. They'll be so scratched up that you only hear about seventy percent of the text. The weird thing about this particular book--which I suspect might be a very good book--is that no matter how much I missed, the story still seemed to be in the same place when I picked up again, like a soap opera.

The story itself--of a racist white senator of mysterious origins, raised by a black preacher to
David Alexander
Jan 31, 2015 David Alexander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ralph Ellison was an American writer of powerful intensity. I found Juneteenth, like The Invisible Man, pleasingly absorbing, and, indeed, gripping, and a rare thing, a religious modern novel that depicts a good black preacher, "Daddy" Hickman, with a compelling Christian faith, and a compelling account of his conversion. Ellison's depiction of black community with dynamic realism, capturing as it does the pith and vinegar and goodness and life and peril of the people, and illuminating from the ...more
Jean Mckie-Sutton
It is well known that Faulkner had a profound influence on Ellison's work. Since I was so enamored of Faulkner's style, I expected Juneteenth to foster the same admiration. I dived in, engaged from the start with the troubled and multifaceted Sunraider, and Hickman who was deemed a saint on one hand, and an exploiter on the other. But by the time I got to the last chapter, I nearly gave up. Sunraider's hallucinatory stream of memories and visions go on for the entire chapter. It was difficult to ...more
Aug 31, 2012 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is unfortunate that Ellison was unable to complete this novel. Invisible Man remains my favorite novel of all time because of the ease with which Ellison navigates such tricky and complex topics. Here, thematically there is much of the same: race, identity, religion, and politics, but Ellison approaches these subjects in a much different way. This is largely third-person (although the novel is constantly shifting) and because of that there is a new distance here. Also, there is no cohesion to ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Lynda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
"Juneteenth" is not an easy book to read. It is written in strong narrative with a variety of accents often spelled phonetically. The characters are very vivid and unique. This is a novel that Ralph Ellison began writing in the early to mid-1950's. It contains characters, events and a way-of-life that seem very long-ago and different to a woman growing up in a Northern city. Racism and discrimination is alive and well in 2015 but perhaps it is not so obvious or blatant as during the early twenti ...more
I love Ralph Ellison and his writing is deep, amazing, and profound. However he died before he could put the book together. So some professor put it together, which must have been a hell of an effort. But alas, Professor is no Ellison and the book is put together in a confusing way. It sets up various scenes but never seems to "go" anywhere. We'll never know what Ellison would have done with the material, where he would have taken the story. Again, there is a lot here to mine. I wish that Profes ...more
Jul 29, 2010 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At times, it is a little more stream of conscious than my tastes, but still a very powerful, and memorable book. The premise is that this older, white U.S. Senator, known for his race-baiting rhetoric, is shot while delivering a speech in Washington D.C. But on his deathbed, he calls for an old, Black minister. The story then about their reflections of their history together and how they got to where they are. Juneteenth is the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation. Since communication wa ...more
Feb 08, 2015 Marcos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ralph Ellison’s “Juneteenth”, which is 368 pages of an unfinished narrative that will become the work “Three Days Before the Shooting” is a seminal and bittersweet jazz riff on the conflicts between black and white; of men. Sunraider, a politician shot due to a political assassination, calls for Reverend Hickman, a black minister who raised him in the South; and the two men basically exchange in a two-handed conversation that flashes back and forth from Bliss’s childhood; and his rise to power; ...more
Apr 27, 2009 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
Sure, it's not a novel in the conventional sense. But Callahan did a pretty good job in morphing the chaos that lay in the wake of Ellison's death into a nugget of powerful storytelling that offers another glimpse into Ellison's world-view/cosmos beyond Invisible Man. Highlights include the "fire and wood" sermon and Ellison's treatment of Brer Rabbit; something he referenced in his essays and letters. One gains a better understanding of the breadth that Ellison attempted to encompass, ultimatel ...more
Izetta Autumn
Jun 25, 2007 Izetta Autumn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-american
Ellison died before he completed this novel about a child preacher who later passes for white and becomes a segregationist politician. On his death bed, said politician finds that religion and his identity cannot be held at bay - and neither can the Black community, which though he has forsaken them, have not abandoned him.

This is interesting. To me the book was a departure from Ellison's other work and had notes of Baldwin and Gaines (especially Gaines' Lesson Before Dying). It was nice to read
Jozef Syndicate
Dec 17, 2014 Jozef Syndicate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes, THE Ralph Ellison has a novel on freedom, published posthumously in 1999. A fascinating tale of the attempted assassination of Senator Bliss Sunraider who passes for white and reeks havoc on the Black constituents who reared him as a young man. On his death bed, he calls for the man who loved him most, his adopted father and biological uncle the Rev. AZ Hickman, an old Black preacher. Hidden within the story line is the celebration that freedom comes only when Whites recognize that their fr ...more
Jan 18, 2012 Rachael rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

I slogged through and made it. And I view that as quite the accomplishment.

Juneteenth is a dialgoue/walk down memory lane/telepathic conversation between a dying racist senator and the black reverend who raised him.

I know that the book is unfinished, but oh my god was it confusing. Subjects and setting change mid-sentence. Characters suddenly appear that we are clearly supposed to be well acquainted with. And towards the end (around page 280 something) was a long chapter in which I neve
Feb 08, 2012 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ralph Ellison is a master of verse. His language is poetic and the subject matter important for us all, especially those of us with white privilege. His work is very deep yet easy to understand...Juneteenth is a masterpiece. Just like his other work, Invisible Man. I grew up with an English literature teacher mom. She insisted upon language and content being of the highest quality. I have so much trouble reading bad writing or writing that just doesn't deepen me. Ralph Ellison worked for 50 year ...more
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Ralph Ellison was a scholar and writer. He was born Ralph Waldo Ellison in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, named by his father after Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ellison was best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. He also wrote Shadow and Act (1964), a collection of political, social and critical essays, and Going to the Territory (1986). For The New York Times , the b ...more
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“God is love, I said, but art's the possibility of forms, and shadows are the source of identity.” 12 likes
“Words of Emancipation didn't arrive until the middle of June so they called it Juneteenth. So that was it, the night of Juneteenth celebration, his mind went on. The celebration of a gaudy illusion. 7 likes
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